The story behind Cellars 33 is one that many will be able to relate to. John and Katie Fones, co-owners of Cellars 33, found wine through each other. As John remembers it, he had Katie over to dinner one night early in their relationship and wanted to impress her with pairing a bottle of wine with the meal. “It was a Blackstone Merlot, I think,” says John. An $8 bottle of a grocery store wine was enough for the young couple to start “collecting.” “We had a little wire wine rack we kept on the top of our fridge,” remembers John, admitting that it was probably the worst — and hottest — place they could have kept their small collection while living on the top story of their apartment complex in balmy Baltimore.
Nevertheless, their grocery store collecting quickly turned them into avid wine enthusiasts. The couple also loves to travel, making frequent trips to the West Coast. And, as John says, if you visit California enough times, you’re going to end up in wine country eventually. So it was that John and Katie discovered their love for California wines in particular. For John, it was more than just the wines he became interested in, it was the winemaking process as well. A former hobbyist beer-brewer, John recalls being much more fascinated with what was happening behind cellar doors than the inside the tasting room.
The Withers Winery: a story of passion, perseverance, and people
“I never wanted to own a winery,” says Andrew Tow, and yet he also claims The Withers Winery as a passion project 35 years in the making. It’s a process that, through a series of fortunate events, both chance and purposeful encounters, and good old-fashioned hard work, has evolved as organically as The Withers wines themselves.
When visiting Paso Robles, you’re pretty much in Rhone Ranger town. Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre are as common here as Pinot Noir and Chardonnay are along the Sonoma Coast. But if you’re looking to break away from the Paso-norm, maybe try a few obscure varietals, and have some outdoors-y fun while you taste, then your next stop is the family owned and operated Castoro Cellars: You’re in for some “Dam Fine Wine.”
Only slightly off the beaten path of Highway 46 in the Adelaida district of Paso Robles is a quaint little family operation, Alta Colina. Here, upon a hilltop, the Tillman family has set up shop on their 130 acre ranch, 31 of which are planted to 15 blocks of vineyard. They have a unique plot of land, with sturdier soils (containing a high percentage of fractured shale amongst the loam) than even some of their closest neighboring vineyards. And being just out of reach of the cool, foggy air of the Templeton Gap, the vines are blessed with a moderately warm climate that can, in the summer, get down right hot.
One of the best things about visiting a boutique winery is being able to meet and greet with the proprietor, the vineyard manager, or the winemaker. The best thing about visiting Kukkula is you can meet all three because all those roles are each filled by founder Kevin Jussila.
Kevin, whose professional background is in business money management, has always been an agricultural enthusiast — an enthusiasm that transformed him into a hobbyist winemaker. In 2003 he decided to turn that hobby into a parallel career path (Kevin is still in the corporate business game), purchasing his 80-acre property off of Chimney Rock Road in the Adelaida hills of Paso Robles. ” In December of 2004 we moved to the Central Coast and started to build the dream,” Kevin says. And he means this literally. An avid architect enthusiast, Kevin’s are the hands that built both his family home and his current tasting room — both of which sit atop his beautiful estate vineyards.